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Interviewee: John Doering, born 1930
Date of Interview: 30 Oct 2006
Transcription: Glenys Murray, Jan 2007
What was that about some kind of bushfire brigade setting that up in case the next fire would come round?
In 1940 most of the district around which were all little areas like Galston and Dural and Arcadia and all those places. We all decided I think through Baulkham Hills Shire Council that we should start a bushfire brigade. It was inaugurated in 1940 any one that had a utility or a truck was deemed the water carrier and someone was the dispatch rider if they could ride a bike and warn people what was going on or how to get out of the way of a fire. I was only ten years old then but later on as I got older and lived in Annangrove I joined it and I was in the fire brigade for about twenty five years I suppose. Like the rest of us. There were numerous fires afterwards but nothing as serious as that one. Not until 1975 that was the real cooker.
Can we talk about the war? The war broke out in 1939 as you know what do you remember about the war years? What were they like here in Annangrove?
I remember quite clearly the Prime Minister Mr Menzies I think.
Menzies and Curtin were the war time prime ministers.
On the radio he announced that we were at war. He said Britain had declared war on Germany therefore we were at war because we were part of the Empire. I can remember that of course when war started there was a lot of recruiting and quite a number of people along Annangrove Road younger people joined the forces some in different areas of the armed forces. In Annangrove itself as the war progressed we weren’t allowed in the bush at certain times. We couldn’t go down and do our normal playing and fishing and that sort of thing during the war. The army took it over and used it as army manoeuvres, mock battles and that sort of thing in the war. The air force every day you’d see there were mock battles and dog fights in the air with all the different aircraft training before they went to war. Each household had to dig a slit trench. We had a slit trench at the school. I suppose volunteer workers dug an air raid shelter, we had an air raid shelter at the school. The army often had route marches through Annangrove the soldiers would march through down the road. We had rationing, didn’t have too many clothes and all the blokes who smoked had to put up with about two ounces a week of cigarettes or tobacco. Generally it was austere, very austere. I can remember Dad making up little headlight covers, it was like a candlelight in front of you as you drove along and you had to paint a white line on your mudguards so you could be seen in the dark if a light happened to shine on your car you could see these white mudguards, that was about the only way you could see the vehicle.
Where was the church located?
It was located just opposite my grandmother’s place on the property of William Davies and Mrs Davies conducted the local post office from her house which was only just next door to the church.
Is the church still there?
No there’s a house there now, it was taken down or it fell down and it was sold, I don’t know a lot of history about that but there is a house there now.
Now let’s talk a little bit about the hall the local progress association hall. How did the hall get going?
The local association used to convene meetings in the little Annangrove School and I think an application was made for the dances maybe or some functions to be held in the school. I think some were but then Annangrove House had a ballroom and dances were held mainly in Annangrove House. The association decided that they needed some sort of hall or place to convene and to publicly have dances and functions and meetings and so forth. I think local meetings were held in our little school for a long time. My grandfather who was fairly public minded and was the secretary and president of the local association for many years he suggested that he would give a piece of ground next to the school for the construction of a hall if there was enough public interest to raise monies to construct one. That was set in motion it was agreed upon and my mother and a number of other people decided that they would hold little play nights and little functions of all sorts. Card nights at the school and all sorts of little functions and raise money voluntarily towards building this hall which they eventually got enough money to do it.
To pay a builder to build the hall and voluntary people constructed it under the supervision of the builder Mr Campbell. That came to fruition and the Annangrove Hall became the centre of functions in Annangrove. It was completed in 1930 the year I was born I think.
From that day on there were monthly dances, there were annual balls, tennis balls, there were card nights, meetings were all held there in the hall. Square dancing all functions that were thought up by the locals that’s where they were held. Then eventually Christmas trees were held there, it fell into disuse to a great extent because television came in, drive in theatres came in. People had cars and money to buy petrol and to diversify and eventually the little local dances faded. We had a progress association but there weren’t too many fruit growers about and things just fell into disuse. My grandfather opened the hall, they gave him the privilege of opening it because he donated the land and I was one of the trustees. Unfortunately when the place was sold it was offered to the Education Department but they didn’t want it so it was decided by a public meeting that it would be sold and the money that was raised for the sale of the hall would go to towards improvements of the Annangrove Park which duly happened.
So it was sold in 1964 was it, that was the end of the hall?
Yeah it would have been about 1964.
You were talking about the park trust tell me a little bit more about your involvement in that park trust?
I was a park trustee at one stage in the sixties. I was a trustee of the hall and the monies were paid into the park trust. The Baulkham Hills Shire Council owns the park. We built a new tennis club building, the tennis courts were fenced, there were toilets built there. Generally went into the uplifting of the park and its utilities. As far as I know that’s what happened.
Can we go now back to the 1940’s and Annangrove in the forties tell me how would you describe the suburb, what physically did it look like?
It was a road that joined Kenthurst Road and Windsor Road and it was called Annangrove Road and it had properties of approximately sixty acre blocks either side all the way down. Those parts of it that were arable had orchard on it and homes. There were a number of families you could almost count on two hands that lived down the road. Principally it was similar to what I’ve described earlier in the interview.
What about the names of some of your neighbours and other people that lived in Annangrove do you remember the families and their names?
Starting from the Windsor Road end from Murphy’s Bridge which is Cattai Creek there were Skinners and Rasmussens you mean mainly in Annangrove because Annangrove was really designated from I would think Murphy’s Bridge to the junction of Kenthurst Road. So on this side from my memory where Jack Ross lives now was owned by the Kinnish family and on the opposite side was owned by people by the name of Fraser and they had a tennis court there and Dad and Mum played tennis there, competition tennis. As you moved up the road I can only remember names of people there were Smith and Patrick and Langland. There was Major Kinnish’s property, Russ White’s place which was on Blue Gum Road, down in Blue Gum Arthur McGilchrist had a property which he bought from Joseph Cusbert. Then there was Jay’s Flat just further up behind grandpa’s property there was a property in the creek and it was called Jay’s Flat it must have belonged to the Jay family. Did I say Patrick then Langland then Davies, Denny, Hancock, Mackenzie, Weekes, Beard, Harvey, Lester, Braid, Birch's, Geibers.
That’s amazing recall you’ve got there.
Principally that would be about all that I can remember.
Well that’s good enough, more than most people can remember. What did they all do for a living those sort of people? What was the general occupation that they had were they all farmers?
Some were farmers. Kinnish grew a lot of passions, I think they had one of the biggest passion farms around the district. Davies had orchard, Langland had poultry and orchard, Russ White and his father grew flowers, mainly flowers and peas I think. Denny’s had poultry and orchard and Hancock’s had poultry and orchard. Mr McKenzie was getting on I suppose he was almost retiring age, Cliff Birch ran the orchard for a while, because he married a Miss McKenzie. Chap by the name of Holyoake had an orchard, Beard’s had pigs and I think Mr Beard owned the furniture business in Sydney which I think is still there in Sydney, probably run by his grandkids by now. Geibers I think had a bit of a farm and Mrs Geiber was an itinerant worker and she used to go to the different farms and she would pick beans or whatever was going on she would be employed doing that. I think Mrs Geiber used to walk to Castle Hill and even walk to Parramtta at times she was a very strong looking woman.
Now after you had the quarry what did you do then after that, I mean you did that for a number of years, what sort of job did you take on or jobs?
After a time the quarry became a bit depleted and the little children were coming along. We had our son and daughter, we had a daughter first and then a son and later on another one. We were living in a sort of duplex because Mum and Dad had made their home which was fairly large into two and we lived one side and they lived the other. We needed more income, principally that’s all it meant we needed more income because there were more expenses with children and so forth and Dad said one day “things are a bit grim why don’t you go and see a friend of mine in Parramatta he’s got a motor accessory business” and he said “I think you’d probably get a job”. So I did I went in and saw Mr Mayerling and explained to him and he said “yes when do want to start, if you’re OK I’ll take you on”. I took it on and I stayed there for a couple of years I suppose at this motor accessory place and he was quite happy with me and I was quite happy to be there. That gave us more income and then another job turned up which was a lot closer to home because it was a heck of a long way to drive every day to Parramatta. It was in a plywood factory which was just up the top of Annangrove Road. Mr Scribner came down to see me one day and he wanted to know if I’d like a job up there making plywood panels for all sorts of things, furniture, bedroom furniture and lounge room furniture and Beale(?) pianos and all sorts of different types of plywood we made and I decided yes I would like to go up there. So I worked there until about 1960 of a week day and I went into Mayerlings(?) of a Saturday morning so I had two jobs and that was helping quite a bit. Then in 1961 or just prior to that Dad had subdivided nine five acre blocks of grandpa’s place and he gave myself and my sister a block each on which we built a home each. Miriam and I went down and lived in our new home and Dad came down one day and he said “there’s a bloke down at Castle Hill sells chemicals, he’s advertised in the paper, did you see it” and I said “no”. He said “he wants a rep in the chemical trade” and he said “why don’t you go down and see him” so I did. It was in Castle Hill just near the post office I remember quite plainly and Mr Poole who was the proprietor of Bull and Poole Pty Ltd he accepted me. I applied for the job and he said “I’ll be in touch” and the guy who was actually the rep before me I went to school with in Annangrove and gave me a bit of a wrap up too and Mr Poole got me back and he said “I’ll give you a job, we’ll see how you go, I’ll have a look at you and you can have a look at me and if we both reckon it’s OK that’ll be right”. So I got stuck into learning all the farming aspects, I had some experience with citrus and vegetables, but I had to learn all about flower growing and how they grew grapes and apples and peaches and everything else. I found it very easy to learn because I had an interest in it. So I threw all the jobs up and joined Norm Poole and spent thirty years there until I retired.
Three months turned into thirty years?
What was the name of the business that you worked with?
Bull and Poole Pty Ltd. That was the first company that I joined he eventually sold out and another couple of ICI guys bought it. Myself and another chap employed by Norm Poole we bought shares in it. That went into demise after a while for several reasons and I joined Stockman’s Rural Traders and I stayed there under various names cause Stockman’s was sold to another company Elco Pty Ltd and I remained in their employ until I retired in 1991.
So you were the travelling representative for these various companies or the same company under different names?
More or less yes, outside rep for the companies.
So what sort of stories were you hearing from all the people that you met, all the farmers what were they telling you about changes in their particular industries?
Well it became a lot more modernised as time went by with more modern chemicals for controlling fungus and insects. General farming husbandry changed quite dramatically with drip irrigation instead of flood irrigation or sprinklers, water saving devices that just dampened round the base of the trees. Weedicides became very popular and you could control weeds without having to cultivate the ground. There was less erosion because of the non disturbance of soil that conserved moisture. Many factors changed. There were better tractors, better equipment, better spray vats and all that sort of thing.
There were I think one or two active farms in Annangrove in 1961. My work was mainly in the Arcadia, Galston, Dural, Glenorie, Maroota area and Kellyville. A lot of activity in Kellyville, a lot of flower growers and veggie growers in Kellyville even Castle Hill and West Pennant Hills. In the early days when I started there were a number of farms, a very big stone fruit orchard in West Pennant Hills. They gradually were consumed by suburbia and they eventually disappeared. There were farms in Castle Hill in Showground Road that used to grow vegetables and poultry and flowers. Carrington Road was another one near the council chambers there were flower growers in there. Right opposite me was a little orchard here in Castle Hill in King Road and just down a little bit further there was a lot of activity in growing parsley and all that sort of stuff, big areas. Over in Balmoral Road in Kellyville one of the biggest parsley growers around, whether he’s still there I don’t know, probably not because that’s where the railway going to run eventually.
Now the title of this oral history project is actually called “Changing Suburbs”...
It did it gradually declined I used to go to Oakdale and The Oaks and Camden and Campbelltown and Wedderburn and Bilpin and Hartley that was all in my areas. Campbelltown became a suburb and then I think Wedderburn just near it has probably gone into suburbia. Bilpin there’s very few farms like there used to be. In Bilpin there were cooperative farming all gone into demise.
So what were the big changes in Annangrove from the thirties to now can you give me a summation?
Well it’s gone from a little community that existed in its own right to becoming a convenient way from wherever they went to Sydney to work. Subdivisions came in too, we were allowed to cut into five acre blocks and most people that owned property could see that there was more money in selling it up than trying to work it. A lot of new people came into the district it lost its atmosphere of what it used to be. People didn’t know each other like we used to, because you don’t when you get dozens of people coming into the area you’ve just got a little area, the number of people you know yourself.
The road got very busy and noisy and a lot of activity. There was a new school built, there were a lot more kids going to school a lot more people around. To me it lost its atmosphere.
It changed from a rural community to a city community?
Rural to a semi rural, suburbia semi rural, very semi rural and then now its completely different to what it was. Most of the other areas are Galston, Arcadia and all those other areas that I used to travel and you’d go from one farm gate to another farm gate. There are no farms now they’ve all gone. I reckoned that when I was ready to retire there wouldn’t be a farm around hardly and I was pretty right.
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